Erdoğan prevented scattering of Syrian refugees: Trump
Speaking at a press conference at the White House, Trump said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wanted to repatriate the refugees.
"Right now, he’s holding, in all fairness to him, he’s holding millions of people that would be all over the place if he wasn’t holding them," said Trump. "So he wants to repatriate, he wants to have them go back into the area that he’s looking at."
Trump also ripped his predecessor for what he said was the overt choice to partner with the PKK terror group.
"When President [Barack] Obama took the PKK, when they bring in PKK, that’s a tough deal, because that’s been a mortal enemy of Turkey," Trump told reporters at the White House.
"So when you bring them into a partnership, it’s a tough situation. It’s tough for Turkey."
Shortly after the operation kicked off, in a statement, Trump said: "Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment."
"In addition, Turkey is now responsible for ensuring all ISIS fighters being held captive remain in prison and that ISIS does not reconstitute in any way, shape, or form. We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely."
"The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea," Trump said in his statement.
Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.
Earlier in the day, Erdoğan announced the launch of Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terror elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
"If you listen to Erdoğan, he wants to have people go back to where they came from. Go back to Syria," said Trump. "But we’ll see. We’ll see how he does it."
The operation came after Trump announced the pullback of U.S. troops in northern Syria, saying Washington would not be engaged in the campaign and "will no longer be in the immediate area."
Ankara has said the PKK terrorist group and its extension the YPG/PYD constitute the biggest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure.